Pride made his final appearance at the CMA Awards a month before death
The death of Charley Pride, country music’s first black superstar and the first black member of the Country Music Hall of Fame, shocked the world on Saturday (Dec 12th). Pride died from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 86 in Dallas. He made his final appearance at the CMA Awards on November 11th in Nashville, where he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award and performed “Kiss An Angel Good Mornin’ with Jimmie Allen, a modern-day hitmaker who counts Pride among his heroes.
He was hospitalized with COVID symptoms in late November, with many questioning if he could’ve contracted the virus at the indoor event. Maren Morris, who took home three awards that night, was one of the first to express her concerns via social media.
“I don’t want to jump to conclusions because no family statement has been made, but if this was a result of the CMAs being indoors, we should all be outraged. Rest in power, Charley. Fuck this fucking year,” she wrote in two tweets — both of which have since been deleted.
Mickey Guyton replied to Morris saying, “Gurl I thought the same damn thing.” She also expressed the same concerns in her own string of tweets, “We need answers as to how Charley Pride got COVID.”
She continues, “It’s been reported that he did not get it at the CMAs. This is however a huge wake up call that we must stay vigilant and continue to protect the elderly and people at risk that much more…. There’s a lot we don’t know but regardless, any future award show should be extra mindful of the elderly. That’s the lesson here today. COVID is real. It’s never a big deal until it’s someone we care about. We have to care about everyone equally. Especially the elderly.”
Both artists were in attendance that night.
The Country Music Association is explaining its COVID-19 protocols following Pride’s death.
“Everyone affiliated with the CMA Awards followed strict testing protocols outlined by the city health department and unions. Charley was tested prior to traveling to Nashville. He was tested upon landing in Nashville, and again on show day, with all tests coming back negative. After returning to Texas following the CMA Awards, Charley again tested negative multiple times. All of us in the country music community are heartbroken by Charley’s passing. Out of respect for his family during their grieving period, we will not be commenting on this further,” the organization says in a statement.
Only performers, nominees, selected guests, CMA staff and crew members were allowed inside the Music City Center in Downtown Nashville. Artists were seated at socially distant tables with many seen congregating with other parties without face coverings, which also expressed concern during the show.
CMA CEO Sarah Trahern that rigorous testing was involved in the weeks leading up Country Music’s Biggest Night.
“We began testing weeks before the show, in October. It’s not just the artists and their guests we tested — we tested literally everyone: stagehands, production crew, our staff, in addition to talent,” she tells Billboard following the show. “We have our final load out happening now at Music City Center, so testing doesn’t just stop because talent is no longer on site. We also consulted with an epidemiologist throughout the process.”
Several artists, such as Florida Georgia Line, Lee Brice, Rascal Flatts and Lady A, were scheduled to perform, but did not attend due to either being diagnosed themselves or having someone in their immediate family test positive.
Trehern adds, “None of the artists who tested positive had ever entered the venue. The protocols we followed were required not only by the CDC but the local health department, as well as the unions and guilds.”